Most days I couldn’t find good reasons to get out of bed.
Although I couldn’t quite bring myself to kill myself, I certainly wished I wasn’t alive any more.
I wished I could be deleted from existence, including from the minds of loved ones, much like in the amazing movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
So I retreated away from reality, from real life, from all the pain.
I retreated back to sleep.
I indulged in fantasy worlds: videogames, books, movies (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those, in moderation)… anything to escape from reality.
Somehow I had become a nihilist, without really meaning to.
Note: Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.
But, somehow, I managed to hold onto a tiny scrap of hope.
Maybe, one day, somehow, it might be possible for me to not feel so fucking awful all the time.
And it was Jordan Peterson who helped me to start constructing the scaffolding which I’d eventually use to pull myself out of this bloody awful hole.
There’s one key thing Jordan said which challenged my belief that nothing meant anything any more (nihilism)…
Step One: Think of something you like (or at least something you don’t hate).
Step Two: Now, think of something which is better than that. Or worse, it doesn’t matter.
Step Three: So, by using your own reasoning, you’ve shown that some things are better than other things. That means that you have a hierarchy of values. And that means it cannot possibly be true that everything in your life is meaningless. So nihilism can’t be true.
Step Four: Having convinced yourself that some things are better than other things, consciously choose to pursue one or two simple things which feel better to you. Example: I loved feeling the warm sun on my face when I was out walking. So I tried to experience that more often.
Step Five: Repeat. Keep looking for good things. Keep trying to experience more of them. Repeat. Keep going.
This process sounds simple, and it is.
But is also extraordinarily powerful.
It stopped me from killing myself. (Well, technically there were also other things which stopped me from killing myself, but this anti-nihilistic idea was one of them).
Please don’t kill yourself. You are loved. You are needed.
I know it might not feel like it right now. You might be feeling incredible pain. You might truly believe that you can’t go on, you can’t take any more.
But, I believe that one day in the future, you could be so proud of yourself and your life that you literally won’t be able to believe that suicide once seemed like a realistic option.
Never one to shy away from the big questions, I’ve had some fascinating ideas recently about what God might actually be (for me).
Disclaimer: My views are solely talking about what God means to me. I am NOT attempting to tell anyone else what their views on God should be. However, I do hope readers will find my views interesting and thought-provoking.
Religion and me in a nutshell
Quick recap on my history with religion. It’s something I didn’t really give much thought to as a child. But aged around 14, my Mum became an evangelical Christian, almost out of the blue. She encouraged the rest of our family to attend and give it a try, so we did.
I loved what I saw, there were many things I loved about being an evangelical Christian. But it didn’t last. Aged around 16, my fascination with science seemed to cast doubt on the existence of God. And the more I doubted, the more distressed I became.
Eventually, I cried out to God in anguish, “Show me a sign that you exist, or I’m not going to believe in you any more.”
God was silent.
Note: I know that good Christians are not supposed to make ultimatums with God like this. We’re supposed to have faith. But I simply found I couldn’t do it any longer.
I became an atheist. Then I discovered the work of Richard Dawkins, particularly his book The God Delusion. It cemented my atheism in a wide variety of ways. I saw religion as not only foolish, but also dangerous.
I massively admire and respect Stephen Fry, for many reasons. And I came to adopt many of his views on religion.
Through my 30s, my attitude towards religion softened. My view became that I was happy for anyone to believe in whatever they liked, as long as it didn’t harm others. Looking back, I suppose I turned a blind eye to some of the harms of religion really. I just didn’t care very much any more.
Then, aged 41, (13th August 2019 to be precise), I took a massive dose of mind-expanding drugs and had what I can only call a religious/spiritual experience. In my blog posts at the time (sadly deleted now), I called it my Spiritual Awakening.
I started describing myself as Spiritual. I attended a catholic church service in my village. I reconnected with a Christian friend or two. I even began praying. All that time, I kept asking myself whether I believed in God and what I believed God to actually be.
Now I call myself agnostic towards religion and spirituality. That’s not a nonchalent shoulder shrug (as Dawkins might think), that’s a very carefully considered position.
I think we should be highly sceptical but also open-minded, that’s as a general approach to almost everything in life.
And the fact is, although there is little-to-no evidence for God (in terms most Christians might think of Him), we can’t rule out his existence entirely. We simply don’t know if God exists. And I think it’s arrogant of militant atheists to declare themselves so anti-God.
Agnosticism seems a more humble and logically sound position to me.
Also in August 2019, I began attending a Narcotics Anonymous fellowship. It reminded me a lot of many of the good things I missed about church – the unconditional acceptance, the kindness, the sense of community.
NA is interwoven with a lot of spiritual/religious themes. I wrestled with them for months, trying to reconcile them with my existing beliefs. I frequently blogged about my evolving feelings towards spirituality and God.
A Tentative Idea about the Nature of God
I’ve been trying hard over the last year or so to become a better person. I’ve developed a set of spiritual principles I believe in and a moral code I try to live by.
Humility (I wrote a blog post on it) is a big part of my spiritual ideals. And a weird thing has been happening while I’ve been following my spiritual principles in my daily life.
I don’t believe the conscious “me” has a particularly strong level of control over my life. My conscious mind is like a rider on an elephant – you can suggest to the elephant which direction you want it to go in, but ultimately the elephant is going to do what it wants. And it’s very powerful.
So, although my life now seems to be going very well indeed, and I’ve made huge progress towards my personal goals in the last year…
“I’m not sure I can claim credit for all the good things I’ve seen appearing in my life.”
Bollinger, R (2020)
This is what I mean by being humble. It’s not fake-humble. And it’s not that I lack belief in myself or my abilities.
I genuinely don’t know exactly how all the good things in my life have appeared.
So if it wasn’t me that made my life good, who/what was it?
Lots of it is just luck / coincidence. But not only that…
When I have creative ideas, they seem to just pop into my head. They rise up from my unconscious mind, without me putting much effort into it. So, can I really claim that it is me (my conscious mind) that is being creative?
What is it inside of us which make us dream at night? It’s certainly not your conscious mind.
How would ancient humans have explained the mind’s tendency to be brilliantly creative, seemingly with little effort?
Humans love to anthropomorphise things. We worshipped the sun as a God, imagining it to have human-like intentions and reasoning.
So, perhaps ancient people, assuming they were humble, felt that the only logical explanation for good things appearing in their lives was… you guessed it, God.
Maybe God is our unconscious mind, diligently working away on our behalf, only making its presence felt when it has a solution for us.
Maybe God is the culmination of everything that’s good for the survival of the human species, that’s stored inside our unconscious minds by evolution.
God is mankind’s highest ideals, manifested into a projection of a person.
God literally is inside each of us (in the form of these unconscious forces for good, honed over evolutionary epochs).
But God is also separate from us. As in, our conscious mind is not the same thing as the unconscious spark of God which resides inside us.
And when we think of a “Higher Self”, we’re talking (maybe) about a part of God… the best possible version of ourselves, manifested into a human-like form to make Him easier for us to relate to.
This makes a scary amount of sense to me. It brings together many different ideas about evolution, psychology and religion.
Recently I’ve been tapping into the part of God that’s inside me, I’ve been striving for the highest Good in my life. And I believe all of us have the same potential.
Or maybe it’s all bullshit. Maybe my brain has been fried from too many years abusing drugs.
Maybe I’m still experiencing the psychosis which I went through over a year ago, and in my delusion I mistakenly thought I was having a Spiritual Awakening.
Or… maybe I’m onto something.
And these ideas are not even really my own. Lots of them were given to me by Jordan Peterson. Or should I say, through Jordan Peterson. Check out this video…
What do you think? What does God mean to you? Let me know your thoughts.
I believe I’ve just experienced a stunning example of what Douglas Murray was talking about (see my previous post).
A friend posted this Feminist cartoon on Facebook.
Now, I tend to comment on this friend’s FB posts quite a bit, usually in full support. But when I disagree with something she writes, I will say so, as calmly and politely as I can.
For clarity: I really, really like this person. And I do not want to fall out with her. However, as Douglas said, I feel it’s important to speak my truth (respectfully and politely).
Now, I DO NOT KNOW if my friend posted the above cartoon as a passive/aggressive dig at my frequent comments on her posts. She may have posted it as a general comment, not targeting me in particular. It’s possible I’m taking this too personally.
But, just in case it was aimed at me, here is my carefully considered response:
I refuse to self-censor. If my friend doesn’t want to hear what I have to (respectfully) say on a public platform, she can block or unfriend me on Facebook. That way, she will be taking full responsibility for censoring me.
Also: imagine if I posted a cartoon in which the genders were the other way around? Can you imagine how quickly feminists would leap to crucify me for daring to criticise and attempting to censor women?
This is what I mean about certain feminists (a vocal minority) taking feminism too far. It’s no longer about true equality (which I’m fully in support of), it’s about actively trying to bring men down to be inferior to women.
Truth and Courage are core spiritual principles for me, and I intend to live by them, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Now, perhaps I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe the cartoon is just meant as a joke. If so, then I’ve taken the bait, hook, line and sinker.
But, in this case, I feel that what I have to say on this matter is important enough that I’m prepared to make myself look foolish in order to make my point.
Well, that’s not technically true. Left to their own devices, a lot of algorithms have the potential to harm.
But if you can tame them, it’s possible to get all the benefits and restrict any harms.
Let’s start with my favourite algorithm (I’m guessing only IT geeks might say those words!)
Spotify has a Discover Weekly playlist, updated every Monday, chock-a-block with new music it thinks you might like.
It’s not always right, sometimes it suggests music I hate. But it still manages to bring my attention to at least 30 new songs every month which I really, really like and add to a monthly playlist.
There are other algorithmically-generated playlists I like: There’s six Daily Mixes, cunningly named Daily Mix 1 to 6. These contain a mixture of tunes you’ve played lots before, plus a few new ones.
YouTube has a reasonable track record at suggesting videos to me which I’ll like. But its hit ratio is pretty low, maybe 20%. That means it suggests a lot of crap I don’t care about, or only marginally care about.
I think the YT algorithm could be improved substantially.
Taming: I try not to use the YouTube homepage too much. It’s too easy to get sucked into wasting time on crap you don’t care about. Instead, I use the Subscriptions page URL:
How on earth is it the 18th September already?! It’s day 30 of me doing the carnivore diet. What results have I seen?
Well, I haven’t actually recorded my various scores/measures for about a week! So that’s pretty useless, isn’t it LOL.
But I’ll try to provide some subjective measures from memory.
Overall, I love the carnivore diet. It isn’t difficult and the benefits are huge. It’s a total no-brainer for me to continue with it.
Asthma and Hayfever
When I started this diet, I’d hoped that I’d see my asthma and hayfever symptoms be eliminated entirely. That hasn’t happened (yet), which is a little disappointing.
From memory, I had zero asthma or hayfever when I did Whole30. So, either I’m still eating some foods which cause asthma/hayfever, or I’m misremembering the degree of symptoms I experienced on Whole30.
High histamine levels in certain foods continue to be my prime suspect, though I’m far from certain and happy to consider alternative possibilities. I’ll continue to experiment with different foods and quantities of foods, to see which (and how much) affect(s) me.
One thing I do know from the last week – something in muesli causes me issues: brain fog, increased mucus, asthma, itchiness, hayfever, increased need for sleep, increased sluggishness upon waking.
It could be the sugar (primarily fructose from raisins). It could be the gluten (from the oats). It might be something else entirely.
I adore muesli, but I think I’m gonna have to cut it out of my diet. This is a shame because it’s a “treat” food for me, something which feels like pudding. When you’re only really eating meat and animal products, there’s not much which feels pudding-like (except for cream).
I’ve switched from mature cheddar to mild cheddar to reduce histamines. I don’t like the taste as much, but mild cheddar doesn’t seem to cause me any symptoms, which is good.
I believe I have had ZERO days with any depressive symptoms since starting the carnivore diet. This relationship isn’t necessarily causative, it might be coincidence. Or it might just be that my antidepressants are working really bloody well.
I have had some days with high levels of tiredness, which can be a precursor to depression for me (and also a symptom), but I believe there were perfectly valid reasons for that tiredness, such as my body getting used to low carbs, staying up too late, not getting enough sleep etc.
The other day I blogged about having a melancholy day, which was worrying for me because it’s sometimes also a precursor to depression. But, in this case, it wasn’t. The low mood left on its own within a few hours, as I’d hoped it would.
That’s a really good sign… and hopefully in future when I have melancholy days, I’ll find it easier to just accept them without worrying.
I’ve certainly noticed an increase in cognitive ability, mental clarity and ability to focus. My anxiety levels have generally been very low. I feel calm, confident and happy, almost all of the time.
This is VERY pleasing.
Mentally and physically, I feel better, healthier in a variety of ways. It’s fucking great!
Oh and I don’t know what my current weight or body fat % are. I kinda don’t care. I have confidence both will reduce over time. What’s most important for me is how I feel.
Really the only negative is that I can’t eat certain foods I’d like. One of my neighbours makes amazing cakes and she sometimes gives us some. They’re absolutely delicious. I can imagine them being used to lure Hansel and Gretel into the witch’s ramshackle cottage.
N.B. My neighbour is not a witch. Or if she is, she’s a good witch.
I had one small slice of her cake this week. And I loved it. Luckily it didn’t give me any negative health symptoms… but I know I’m taking a risk.
Moving forward, I would like to incorporate some plant foods into my diet (like my neighbour’s cake), though I think they’ll have to be few and far between, reserved for special occasions.
It’s all about trying to strike a balance between my health vs the pleasure of eating certain foods.
OK, that’s enough rambling for now. Happy to answer any questions in the comments.
Rock Bollinger – the only champagne with pebbles in it. It’ll make your man as hard as granite.
Well, I’m excited about them anyway. They might just seem strange to other people.
1. My Personal Heroes – Top Trump Cards
There are loads of people I respect, admire and have learned from. At first I thought about writing a normal-style blog post for each person in which I describe exactly why I like them so much. But then an image flashed into my head and I knew what I had to do…
Imagine a famous, well-respected person. Here’s Jordan Peterson.
Now imagine a Top Trump card… when I was a kid there were loads of different sets featuring things like monsters, battleships etc.
Now combine the two.
See where I’m coming from? This strikes me as a really fun mini-project. Watch this space.
2. Music Analysis
Note: This definitely needs a better name.
In the midst of my Spiritual Awakening / psychosis (take your pick), certain songs seemed to hold an extra significance for me. I decided to analyse exactly what I felt was going on in the song.
Here’s “Places” by Catnip Cloud, which still holds a very special place in my heart. I can listen to it on repeat over and over again.
And then I decided to be brave and contact/email the song authors to share my semi-insane ramblings about their creative work… and get their feedback.
This was a REALLY cool and fun project. What was slightly uncanny was that I managed to get pretty close to what the artists intended the song to be about, but without me reading their opinions or interviews or anything like that.
In essence, I was “reading” the music and translating it into the English language using a variety of psychological concepts and emotions.
And then… I got ashamed of what I was doing. I thought it was silly. And those old blog posts have been deleted forever, which I now see as a tragedy.
So I’m going to start again.
I’m going to create a mini-series of posts about some of my favourite music and what it means to me or what it feels like to me.
I didn’t study music at school. I don’t know much (anything?) about music theory. I’m not trying to be pretentious. I’m just trying to describe and share how certain music makes me think and feel, as honestly and authentically as I can.
Recently I’ve been banging on about the importance of the spiritual principle of truth, both in our personal lives and in business.
But it’s not always the right thing to do to tell the pure truth, all of the time.
One example was given to me by Sam Harris (via my friend Chris). Imagine you’re hiding Jews in your house in WWII, when some Nazis storm into your house, hunting said Jews. They directly ask you if you’ve seen any Jews recently or know where they might be.
What do you do?
If you adhere to a strict “always tell the truth” policy, then congratulations, you’ve just handed a death sentence to the fugitives.
There are definitely some occasions where it might be best to subordinate our desire to tell the truth in the name of some higher ideal, like saving lives.
I guess the lesson here is to not be ideological. Sure, have rules of thumb, but make sure they are just that… guidelines, not stone tablets.
We need to always have our eyes open, paying attention, thinking. Always trying to weigh up what’s best to do in any given context.
That’s what it means to be alive, to be human.
If you’re just following rules blindly and unthinkingly, you’re no better than a robot.
One of the things that happens when you don’t like yourself is that you have a hard time believing anyone could like you.
Today I had one of the most touching and life-affirming chats in a very long time. She’s a truly beautiful soul.
And to try to set the emotional tone of this post – I almost cried during that chat. And on my current high dose of antidepressants, it’s actually really hard for me to cry. I don’t think I’ve cried in over a year.
People actually like me. They miss me. They enjoy having really long-winded, personal and interesting chats with me.
Depression is a big factor. It makes me literally unable to believe good things about myself or my life.
My heart feels so full right now. I’m overwhelmed.
I’m an OK guy. I’m not shit. I’m not automatically at the bottom of any given social hierarchy.
People like me. I finally feel like I can start to believe that.